Democrats Confused About Whether They Can Still Win In Arkansas

Arkansas capitol
You might have heard that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman, was in town last night for a Democratic Party of Arkansas (DPA) fundraiser.
Here’s a recap from the AP:

Republicans gained control of the Arkansas Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction in the 2012 general election, and they expanded their majorities in the Legislature, won all seven constitutional offices and gained control of the state’s six seats in Congress in the 2014 general election.
“And now we have to do the hard work of turning it blue once again, and turn it blue we will,” Wasserman Schultz told more than 300 Democrats who paid tribute to David Pryor — a former U.S. senator and Arkansas governor — and his wife, Barbara, for their lifetime achievements during an event organized by the state Democratic Party and the Young Democrats of Arkansas.
Along with voters in Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota, Arkansas voters approved a ballot measure to increase the minimum wage in November, Wasserman Schultz noted.
“Even though our candidates don’t win, voters agree with us on the issues, which means to me that we need to do a better job of making the case to voters that Democrats are on their side,” she said. “We know that Democrats are the party of inclusion, empowerment and expanded opportunity.
“But now we need to convince the people outside this room, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, that Democrats are fighting to ensure that all Americans — not just the wealthy, not just well-connected — but all Americans have their fair shot and chance to get ahead.”

Earlier this week, a sleeper conservative agent had pre-emptively undercut her highly optimistic claims.
From Politico, earlier in the week:

Former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday that Arkansas has slid so far into the Republican column that he might not be able to win if he were on the ballot again there.
“I was governor a long time,” Clinton said during a question-and-answer session after a speech at Georgetown University. “The people of my native state were good enough to elect me five times. Based on recent events, I don’t know if I could win again down there.”

Oh, wait: that was former Democratic governor and president Bill Clinton. Well, that’s awkward. I doubt Clinton’s statement will be featured in any DPA fundraising letters anytime soon.
Even after heavy Democratic losses in Arkansas in 2014, I haven’t seen any evidence that they’ve done much soul-searching about proposing policies that would make Arkansans want to vote them back into power.
Most of their critiques of Republican power in Arkansas have been centered on attacking religious liberty and other old, stale ideas like spending more money on pre-K.
Contra Wasserman Schultz, Democrats will have to come up with something better than that if they want to make Arkansas a blue, or even a purple, state again.
 

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